by Egi Gaisie

Articles on ‘the moment of truth’ are usually written from the viewpoint of the recipient of the service. In the hospitality industry, a moment of truth is therefore ‘when an interaction occurs between a guest/customer and the service provider that can leave a lasting positive or negative impression on the one served.’

For some of us, ‘the moment of truth’ goes beyond the personal interaction; my moment of truth as a guest to a hotel could be when I drive to the parking lot and observe pools of water long after a rainfall. In discussing this moment of truth you could empathize with me. Nevertheless, ‘the moment of truth’ should also be considered from the viewpoint of the service provider, which is what this article intends to do; empathize with the server during the service.

Whether we represent management or guests/customers, our expectations of service providers are very high, especially in hotels. We expect servers/ waiters (in restaurants, lounges, hotel guest rooms, banquet rooms, and snack bars), restaurant hostesses, cashiers, bartenders and food runners, to put in a lot of effort towards preparing for service which I vehemently support (refer my previous articles, part I and II on preparation for service).  So let’s assume our servers are ‘on top of their game’ for this moment when a guest/customer walks through that door (in the case of a hotel’s restaurant/ café/lounge bar, or in the case of the hotel’s main bar, where the customer settles down at a choice spot or in the case of room dining service, the room service attendant ‘invades’ or preferably steps into the privacy of the guest -since it is upon a request).

In part I of preparing for exceptional service, I indicated that this whole food and beverage service work arena can be quite intimidating without the presence of guests and further hinted how their could be even more intimidating; using George the gardener and my own restaurant hostess experiences. In this article I am assuming that our servers have overcome their self consciousness and have developed eager attitudes toward service.

During the service encounter, anyone of the following scenarios is likely; our servers may never have met the guests/customers they are about to serve before; they may have had a good/ bad /normal encounter with the occasional guests/customers they are about to interact with or the guests/ customers they are about to encounter may be among the ‘regulars’ and therefore all formal barriers have been broken.  Bear in mind however, that our servers would actually encounter all of the above during the six to ten-hour shift they will be on the service floor.

The duties of servers can be tedious and challenging but are vital to the success of the hotel. Apart from preparatory tasks before guests arrival, when guests/customers arrive servers offer cocktails, specialty drinks, wine, beer or other beverages. In some high-end food service outlets, servers demonstrate a good knowledge of the wine list and are able to recommend food-wine pairings. They recommend food options and even request the chef to make changes in how food is prepared. Servers memorize the ingredient list for the dishes and the manner in which the food is prepared. Silver service staffs are specially trained to serve at banquets and by the way it is not all about technical and professional skills, there are the social skills to observe and I think that is where some guests/customers ‘forget’ themselves; you read right, yes, guests/customers.

To perform the above duties, emotional labor is often required. The nature of work of our servers is physically demanding, involving prolonged standing and static postures, carrying and lifting and repetitive movements, often combined with other unfavorable working conditions such as the poor design of the workplace.

Before I ever knew that the Japanese have a proverb that ‘people have three faces’ I had reasoned so, through various service encounters in my hotel career. Every guest/customer has three faces; the one you will ordinarily encounter, the second which shows up when an issue crops up and the third which you rarely see. Until you work in food and beverage service you cannot image the daily drama that plays out on the service floor. One plot leads to another and every twist and turn leads to a tale of interaction between servers and guests/customers, from the server point of view, of course.

In the points high lighted below, I am not suggesting that a server’s experience is all doom and gloom. They encounter good guests/customers too, but as a guest told me once, ‘good service is so news. It’s the bad service that makes news interesting.’ Apart from the negative human encounters, their working conditions also place a toll on them. Below are few encounters:

Hotel Restaurants

I am a hostess and I know that I must save four-top tables for parties of four. A couple walk in and the ‘she’ does not want a table for two. She insists on a four-top table. When I apologize and explain that I am expecting larger groups and I am expected to save the four-tops for parties of four, she looks down at me, makes fun of me and even gives a nasty remark suggesting I do not understand how important they are as guests/customers.

This other guest/customer is a perfect gentleman, it seems. When it is his turn to order, he does not look at me, the server; he looks straight ahead and sneers/mumbles some words.  I can hardly hear what he says and I get very embarrassed trying to get him to confirm what he ordered.

Room Dining Service

I love room dining service, making the guest feel special; but it can be disheartening when we, servers, find ourselves having to deal with:

  • Guests not fully or even mostly dressed(particularly during breakfast delivery)
  • Guests asking about other guests in the hotel

Hotel Bars/Night Clubs

Unless you have worked behind a bar, you will not realize how much stress and harassment we, bar staff have to suffer on a daily basis.

  • Our legs tend to get sore standing the entire shift
  • We may be mentally alert but we get physically exhausted in busy bars
  • We smell like a brewery after the shift
  • Some of us develop hate/disrespect towards drunk people
  • It can be very hard to hear  
  • Customers  think they are being helpful by shoving their rubbish into their glasses
  • Customers  do not understand what ‘closing time’ means
  • Female servers/barmaids are harassed perhaps just because they are serving  drinks?
  • Customers ask uncomfortable questions-Are you straight/gay/married/single?
  • And for all servers, when ‘the customer is always right’ is given a standing ovation despite the fact the guest/customer is CLEARLY NOT, in those moments we are guided by the ethics of the industry, if there is any(on the matter), or we just have to ‘grin and bear it’ taking those moments as exigencies of the job.

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